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Ekadashi Fasting


Ekadashi Vrata: -
Fasting with the phases of the moon
 
It is not advisable to fast from food if sick, diabetic, under a doctor’s care, or taking daily medications that require food.
Above all else... Know Yourself!
 
In India, the eleventh day after the full and new moon is called Ekadashi.
There are two per month, one each in the bright and dark half of the month.
You count the day after the full or new moon as the first day. Example in 2004: the new moon is April 19th, the 20th is the first day after, so the eleventh, Ekadashi will be April 30th. The two Ekadashis in May 2004 are the 14th and the 30th.
Ekadashi is known as a sacred day. It is believed that loads of negative karmic reactions are removed if fasting, prayer and meditation is observed on this day. However, Ekadashi is an individual expression, one that is best approached with sound sense and an understanding of our personal capabilities.

Choosing to refrain from food is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline, tapas, that burns up habits of addictive behaviour. If you are not sure about going without food or it is not an appropriate day for fasting (perhaps you need to be too active to go without food), you could use the day mindfully, to tune into awareness of a habit that you might wish to alter; -
To refrain from watching television 
Choose not to use electricity
Choose not to speak or try not speaking excessively,
Perhaps switch off your phone or
Refrain from texting etc.
These are traditional days of spiritual quietude when we could choose to be mindful and seek to engage in peaceful pursuits, where possible refraining from strenuous work. Nurturing activities include meditation, reading soul-stirring literature, walking in nature, or enjoying the company of mindful friends.
 

Fasting: -
On normal Ekadashis, fast from beans, grains and cereals
On Nirjala Ekadashi: total fasting including fasting from water. (Though complete fasting from food and water on every Ekadashi is highly recommended)
Ekadashi fasting combined with yoga, leaves us feeling vibrant and healthy, not fatigued. Physically, fasting detoxifies the body, gives the digestive system a “rest”, and allows us an opportunity to set aside a day of healing and peacefulness during our otherwise busy lives. From an Ayurvedic perspective, especially if one is fasting entirely, or even just taking water, the stools absorb the toxins in the body when fasting. So on the day the fast is broken it is a good idea to take a gentle laxative consisting of 50-50 warm milk and water, with some rock candy to sweeten it. Generally 4-5 cups are drunk (up to 7) and within half an hour to an hour one will expel the faeces.
Alternatively before fasting one can practice one of the Shatkarmas Laghoo shankaprakshalana, intestinal cleansing with warm salty water combined with exercises that wash into every pocket of the intestines, which gently clears out the whole digestive system, leaving the body feeling bright and wholesome; then, fasting is very easy indeed.
Nirjala Ekadashi: -
In all, 24 Ekadashi fasts are observed in a year, but there are some Ekadashi that are relatively of greater significance. Nirjala Ekadashi, observed on the Ekadashi day (11th day) of the bright fortnight of Jyaishtha (May-June) is one of these. Not only do people refrain from eating food on this day, but also water. In India the month of Jyaistha is very hot and the days are long, and so observing fast, without even taking a drop of water from dawn to dusk means a great act of piety and austerity. Ekadashi vow and vigil enhances mental equipoise, tolerance and spiritual powers.
Being near to God: - The Sanskrit word for fast is ' upa-vaas ', which means staying close to God. The original concept of fasting entailed a deviation from the normal lifestyle and devoting one day to introspection. The fasting person was supposed to distance himself from the trivia of day-to-day life and think only about God. As any worldly pleasure would distract him from this purpose, he was supposed to follow a simple routine. Hence, rich food was avoided and a simple diet was taken to sustain the body. The intention was neither to starve the body nor to indulge it.
 
Mantras can be used to help keep the mind’s attention on inner goodness in whatever way you sense it. During Ekadashi you might try chanting this powerful Vishnu mantra:
                  om namo bhagavate vaasudevaaya
Or you could chant the Hare Krishna mantra since Krishna and Vishnu are one
and the same.
Or chant with meditative attention on different areas of the body: -

Om Damodaraya Namah
Thighs:
Om Madhavaya Namah
Private Parts:
Om Kamapataye Namah
Hips:
Om Vamanaya Namah
Navel:
Om Padmanabhaya Namah
Stomach:
Om Vishvamutaye Namah
Heart:
Om Jnanagamyaya Namah
Throat:
Om Srikanthaya Namah
Arms:
Om Sahasrabahave Namah
Lotus Eyes:
Om Paramayogine Namah
Forehead:
Om Urugayai Namah
Nose:
Om Narakeshvaraya Namah
Hair:
Om Sarvakamadaya Namah
Head:
Om Sahasrashirshaya Namah
 
The Vishnu Puran and the Markandeya Puran gives detailed description of the benefits resulting from the observance of Ekadashi vrata.
 
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